domingo, 8 de julio de 2007

Design and Graphic Designs 1984-1999. The North American Debate

... I would like to mention the relevance the debate on the social role of graphic design has had in the United States – a debate which took shape during the 1990’s and which was finally transformed during the first decade of the 21 st century into a stance we could even describe as political. A symbol of this is undoubtedly the “First Things First Manifesto 2000” mentioned earlier on, which, following its publication in 1999, gave rise to a series of debates on the feasibility of the professional-social positions it defends.

If the decade of the 80’s and the beginning of the 90’s were moments of certain passivity for these issues, at the end of the 20 th century, and in parallel with the development of a global resistance movement, a new graphic activism appeared, while the interests of designers broadened considerably to respond -as is logical- to a new social, political, economic and cultural situation. Since the 1970’s, pacifism and the traditional resistance to governmental power and to certain doctrines have been joined by feminist vindications, the fight against AIDS, the defense of animal rights, homosexual activism, environmental concerns, the issue of genetically modified food and the attack on multinational corporations, in particular on their most indisputable manifestation: the brand, as symbols of a new power which is growing at an alarming rate.

Fully aware that culture is a manner of social control, and that design represents a political and cultural tool –“a powerful way of controlling our collective conscience” in the words of Zuzana Licko-, North American designers have begun to return to the former social theory of design, a theory whose roots are deeply entrenched in modern discourse, but now in a new, revised form. For although there has been a significant sector of professionals who have tried to disassociate themselves from this theory, there was another group which was vital enough not to be ignored. It is in the heart of this other group where we can discover an ongoing concern for the role of design in a changing society and a call to social responsibility which draws them away from the conservative nature of certain post-modernist points of view. And this attitude is most certainly linked to many of the ideals of the Modern Movement.

As a final note I would like to mention that in analyzing the points dealt with in this paper, we must be aware of how a certain local reality is capable of influencing other local realities, thus becoming a nucleus which, in this case, has set the mood for a significant part of global graphic design, achieving this through its dissemination by printed medium. Let us not forget that in today’s world, the field of publishing, at least as far as graphic design is concerned, is governed by production originating in the United States.

Design and Graphic Designs, 1984-1999. The North American Debate.
by Raquel Pelta / Ph D, Professor, Elisava School of Design – University Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona).

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